THE owner Tennent’s Lager has declared it is reaping the rewards of a major acquisition which ramped up its presence in the drinks wholesale market, while highlighting the opportunity brought by minimum unit pricing for alcohol in Scotland.

C&C Group, which reported a 3.3 per cent rise in operating profits to €104.5 million, completed a deal to take over wholesalers Bibendum and Matthew Clark at Easter last year from the administrators of previous owner Conviviality Group.

Dublin-based C&C said the deal saved 2,000 jobs and gave its brands, including Magners Irish cider, access to a further 25,000 pubs and clubs in the UK, many based down south.

Chief executive Stephen Glancey declared the deal meant it had been a “transformational year” for C&C, turning it into the “largest final mile distributor to the on-trade of alcohol and other drinks in the British Isles.”

And, following a period of stabilisation, he said it C&C is now “on the front foot” with the acquired businesses, with the Bibendum name already having an influence.

Asked whether the acquisition has enhanced its offer to customers in Scotland, Mr Glancey said: “It does, actually. Bibendum is universally recognised in the hospitality space as being the premier wine company in the UK.

“They have an incredible insight team that gets better wines and spirits than anybody else.

“We have already won some business in Scotland because of Bibendum. Some big customers have switched their wine offer to us all of a sudden because of the Bibendum offer.”

C&C reported that Tennent’s, Scotland’s biggest-selling beer, had an “excellent trading period”. While volumes were flat compared with the previous year, it said the brand had increased its market share in the off-trade, and continued to grow revenue in the independent free trade.

Describing the advent of minimum pricing as “one of the most significant and far-reaching legislative changes in alcohol retailing for a generation”, Mr Glancey said it has resulted in consumers switching away from purchases of 24-packs in supermarkets to six and four-packs in convenience stores.

The products most affected have been cheaper, higher-strength alcohol brands such as white cider.

Mr Glancey said: “It has been good for good brands, and not so good for poor brands. The consumer has gravitated towards quality, rather than price.”

He added: “The next thing in Scotland to get our heads round is the packaging return scheme.”

Commenting on trading in the on-trade, he said the tourism, urban and wet-led parts of the market are holding up well, though casual dining and high-end restaurants are finding it tough.

“Young people are not going out and eating as much as their parents,” Mr Glancey said.

Meantime, C&C reiterated that Brexit could bring an opportunity for the company if companies within the European Union (EU) use its manufacturing facilities in Scotland to ensure continuity of supply. “Wellpark is busy just now on the canning lines," he said. "It is people looking for contingencies.

“The difficulty with contingency is we don’t know when we have to be contingent, because we don’t have a  [Brexit] date yet.”